In January I got a very polite and pleasant e-mail
from a Goodreads group I am in. I must admit I have not been very active in this group, so much for social in social reading.
The e-mail cordially invited me to join in on a challenge, where a fellow reader (whom I do not know) makes a choice for me with regards to what to read in February, and in exchange I do the same for another reader. Normally I am skeptical when it comes to granting others a say in this matter, but this time around I have some time on my hand and dire in need of some distraction from job hunting. And an upside is also that whoever got me would have to limit themselves to my to-read shelf, so complete darkness I not in am.
So this February I am reading Niffenegger’s “The Time Traveler’s Wife” and, if I have time – which I hope and anticipate – my backup choice “The Road” by Cormac McCarthy.
So far tTTW is interesting, although somewhat confusing in the beginning, because there – duh – is a lot of shifting in time and space, ages of characters and keeping score of what person knows how much of the collected whole in the given section. But that is somehow also what is interesting for me as a reader. My passage through the book is linear, and so I know both more and less than the characters at certain parts of the book. However, I feel like Niffenegger could play more with this point. There is something irksome about narration that almost certainly stands in itself only to guide or inform the reader where it is not needed – especially if you want to keep the reader a little bit confused or in the dark. The possibility of the reader veering off in some other direction or ‘misinterpreting’ is something I wish were tapped into more often.
Henry has a genetic disorder which causes him to travel through time when triggered. And before you completely shut down and discard the idea, think about the possibility of metaphor in that statement. Ok, moving on: So, Clare is his past, present and future. Along the book we are introduced to interchanging narration from the two. Sometimes one scene experienced from both sides, sometimes only the one. I noticed the first meetings, which for both of them was not the others’ first meeting. Henry first meets Clare when she is six years old. The meeting, which happens in a meadow by Clare’s house, but in a blind spot where prying eyes conveniently do not belong, offers a very interesting thematic. Henry – who in this scenario is in his thirties – has already spent a great deal of time with Clare, and the two, as the narration states, are lovers and share a history together. But there, in front of him, is the six-year-old version of his love, his wife and soul mate. And in front of her is an older man, stark naked – because he cannot transport anything with him through time (duh!) – and most important, a stranger. There is inadvertently something of a Lolita-vibe going on, but one that is not acted out on, and this is also pacified in the narration which tells you the underlying tension is ok. They (the man and the child) are somewhere in the future destined to be together.
On the other side of the table, Henry’s first encounter with Clare is at age 28 and she is 20. So the age difference is significantly different and allows for no discrepancy or raised eyebrows with regards to social order. She introduces herself to Henry the librarian, age 28, who has no recollection or stored memories of their previous meetings since it has not yet happened for him, and asks him to join her for dinner. Here she explains to him that in her time – which is completely linear – they have already had many encounters, where he has taken on the role of tutor and friend, teaching her French and Math, and she has quite surely grown into a deep passion for him. One that – up to where I am in the story – the narration assures that she, in her tender age, is not quite sure how to explain or what it means, or how to act upon. These encounters pose the question: the chicken or the egg? Does he go to meet her because she invites him to dinner and tells him these things, or has she met him at age six to find him at age 20 to ask to dinner and tell him about the previous meetings?
Anyway, I have not come that far in to the story and although there are some linguistic/narrative ‘kinks’ that irk me I do look forward to reading on. And then turn onto McCormack’s road.